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March 29, 2002




We, the undersigned, believe that a full-scale Israeli offensive throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is imminent and that such an unprecedented attack demands from global civil society an unprecedented response. For this reason, we urge global civil society - including human rights organisations, solidarity groups, and individuals - to take immediate direct action to stop Israel's all-out war against the Palestinian people and its 35-year belligerent military occupation of the Gaza strip and West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

Today, Israeli occupying forces invaded the compound of PNA President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah as part of a systematic and longstanding campaign to undermine, humiliate, and destroy the Palestinian political leadership. Israeli troops have also seized complete control of Ramallah and imposed a total curfew. At the same time, Israeli officials have begun a massive military build-up, including the mobilization of 10,000 army reservists, in preparation for an openly declared war throughout the OPT that promises to be widespread, prolonged, and bloody.

Earlier this month, escalating Israeli attacks - including willful killings, indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, complete economic and social suffocation, and mass destruction of housing and agriculture - culminated in full-scale invasions of Palestinian refugee camps and villages that killed hundreds of civilians. Statements by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today referring to Arafat as the "enemy" and speaking of the need to "extirpate Palestinian terrorism everywhere it exists" indicate that such attacks are set to resume, with greater ferocity and scope, leading to disastrous consequences.

Palestinian civil society groups have warned for years that Israel's freedom to act as a state above the law would severely undermine chances for a just and lasting peace. After decades of occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing and 18 months of all-out war against a civilian population, we call for the international community not to wait for massacres on the scale of those in Sabra and Shatila in 1982; the time for action is now.

The support for the Palestinian people shown by international solidarity groups, manifested in numerous statements, visits, and actions, has proved invaluable throughout this crisis. Now is the time for global civil society to use the momentum it has generated and the ethical integrity it has demonstrated to forcefully demand immediate action from governments to end the occupation, which is the root cause of the conflict.

Governments, including those currently meeting at the UN Commission on Human Rights, must face direct and unambiguous pressure from their own people to immediately secure Israel's respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention and its complete withdrawal from the OPT as necessary steps towards achieving a just and lasting peace.

To this end, we call upon all those who oppose occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes, who are committed to justice and peace, who are willing to speak truth to power, to:

  1. Raise your voices to break the conspiracy of silence among governments that allows Israel, which enjoys the unlimited and unconditional support of the US, to commit war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law with impunity.
  2. Clearly, vigorously, and publicly demonstrate before governments and international organisations to demand immediate and effective protection for Palestinian civilians in the OPT, through protests, marches, media campaigns, and other peaceful means.
  3. Demand that governments end military assistance to Israel, suspend economic ties, and support the prosecution of war criminals, and urge other states to do so.
  4. Continue and intensify your activities as part of a sustained and systematic campaign to end the occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes in the OPT and to support the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Now is the time for immediate and direct action, as the pattern of escalating oppression and brutality that we have experienced over the past 18 months moves inexorably towards a disaster whose consequences we can only begin to imagine. In this dark hour of suffering and determined resistance, we are sure that the worst is yet to come, but we are equally sure that, with the support of global civil society at this crucial time, peace and justice will prevail.

Dr. Heydar Abdel-Shafi
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti
Dr. Azmi Bishara
Rana Nashashibi
Dr. Eyad Sarraj
Khader Shkirat
Raji Sourani

ABOUT US: THE ELECTRONIC INTIFADA, a resource to help counter myth, distortion, and spin from the Israeli media war machine, found at electronicIntifada.net. Articles about us can be found at electronicIntifada.net/about/.

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